Sunday, March 29, 2009

If She's Home, It Must Be Over

I'm finally getting around to uploading all the pictures that Fifth Grader took of her sleepover party - what, two weeks ago? - and, apparently, it is going to take three hours.

I suppose that's fine, seeing as it's Sunday. Normally the idea of anything taking THREE HOURS to complete would make me completely batty, but since I really don't have to do anything else besides wait, I will try to make the most of my time. Let's see, I can fold laundry, empty the dishwasher, start packing up the winter clothes...oooor, I can boss Fifth Grader around all day and make her do all the chores. Now we're talking!

Before you call in family services, let me just tell you about Fifth Grader's weekend so far. So about midweek, one of her friends called to invite her to a "Twilight" party on Friday night. Seems the entire female population of the fifth grade is immersed in this book series. Many of her friends are on at least the second book, several have finished all of them, and Fifth Grader is close to completing the first book. Now, of course, the movie is out on DVD and they all wanted to watch it together. Which means she and her friends can swoon over Edward, and I can still refuse to get involved in the whole sordid affair. I have pretty much continuously asserted to her that this is, in fact, not the first (or best) series of books to ever be written about vampires, and that someday she will read a proper vampire series and know these words to be true. She, of course, files this information under "mom's talking about the good old days again." Anyway, at least she's reading.

So we arranged for her to go home from school on Friday with another girl who is attending the party. Oh, and skip gymnastics practice, which I had the task of relaying to her coach. Friday afternoon, I got a call from another friend's mother, inviting Fifth Grader to a surprise party on Saturday night. This one is a scavenger hunt in the mall and dinner afterwards, from five to eight at night. Sure, I have no life of my own; why not cart the girl around to hers all weekend?

Saturday morning I picked her up, managed to shake a fair amount of room cleaning out of her during the day, and delivered her to the mall at five. Third Grader, who is such a great sport about being my constant companion, chose Applebee's and Target to fill the time. Target is a bad idea without a list, my friends. A very bad idea. After that bout of hedonism, we went back to the mall to fetch Fifth Grader, who was still at the restaurant and whose party had still not been served their food. So Third Grader and I roamed the mall for a half-hour. And the mall, without a list? Also a very bad idea.

Tired (and now broke), we retired to a bench outside the restaurant at 8:30. All the same girls that I just saw getting picked up in the morning come flying out of the restaurant...and the sleepover requests start flying as well. Other girls' parents arrive. Daughters beg fathers. Mothers look at daughters with wistful expressions. They are all a bunch of suckers. And, naturally, we all drove home, packed up our daughters, and delivered them to the winning girl's house.

So here we are, Sunday afternoon, and both of my daughters are finally home.

Oh, plus Third Grader's friend, who is here for the day. It was only fair.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Just Another Manic-Depressive Monday

Remember all that happiness I mentioned on Friday?

You know, I actually managed to hang on to that happiness pretty much right through the weekend. Strange but true. For once, in I don't know how many months, I managed to spend my weekend doing a little bit of all of the things that I enjoy. Drinks and laughter with friends on Friday night. A trip to Borders with the Tornadoes, and a nice run (still on the treadmill - not ready to brave the outdoors again yet. Brrr.) on Saturday morning. I will spare you the aggravation that was Saturday afternoon with the Tornadoes, as it will only spoil the momentum...and Sunday: many, many hours lying on the couch reading.

And here we are again - back at the beginning of what is sure to be another hectic and frustrating week.

Part of what makes the weeks so frustrating as of late is the fact that I have determined that I need to dial up the homework supervision. Third Grader is a diligent student, but Fifth's not that she's struggling, exactly. She enjoys school. She likes to do well and she shares her new knowledge with me with a great amount of enthusiasm. She just doesn't really want to deal with school anymore once school has ended for the day. Homework, in the eyes of Fifth Grader, sucks.

And it isn't even that she gets all that much of it this year. The only assignments that are really ever sent home are ones that she didn't get finished during class, or math papers needing problems corrected. Easy peasy, right? Yeah. If you want to call singing, flipping, eventually sitting down at the kitchen counter under duress, and then thrashing about in wild frustration "easy", you go right ahead. I do not enjoy it.

So here's how the week is starting. Tonight we were all home by about 5:45. A quick perusal of assigned homework results in Third Grader slamming down her two already completed papers, presenting homework journal for my initials, and proceeding to her latest passion, which is knitting. Yes, knitting. Meanwhile, Fifth Grader's journal poses one little assignment; answer seven questions about her reading group book. I have never heard of her particular reading group book, much less read it, so all I can really do to help her is lurk. I try to lurk from a distance, while I get dinner ready.

Then the singing begins. "Is there a question about singing?" I ask. She resumes writing. I resume cooking. Third Grader begins explaining the process of knitting to us on an unsolicited basis. Fifth Grader retorts with a handful of sassy big sister remarks while simultaneously climbing onto the kitchen counter to reach the cat. "Is petting the cat part of your homework?" I say, not so patiently. She resumes writing. I resume cooking. Third Grader resumes knitting.

Dinner is served and consumed, and we begin again. It is now 6:30. Fifth Grader has made it to question #3. I go upstairs to put away laundry and check my email, maybe stare aimlessly out the window for a few minutes pondering some other matters, and return downstairs at 6:55. She is on question #4.

I have had to resort to my very least favorite reward for a job well done with Fifth Grader; namely, the ability to watch "Dancing With the Stars" tonight, with me. I have absolutely no desire to watch "Dancing With the Stars". I am hoping just the teeniest, tiniest bit that, at 7:59, she is still on question #6. But I know that she won't be. She will be finished, because watching extraordinarily grating reality shows with her mother seems, for some reason, to be the ultimate reward for the child. Go figure. I'd happily take a fudge brownie.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Something's Not Right

I am feeling eerily happy today. To be honest, it's freaking me out a little.

What do I have to be so happy about? Hmm. What am I happy about, what am I happy's not a gimmick, seriously. I don't know why I feel like this.

Here are some possibilities:

It's Friday.

The sun is shining.

The snow is melting.

There is a "sale pending" plaque on the sign next door.

I bought some new clothes yesterday.

...uh, yep. That's all I can come up with. Oh, and I am staring into a weekend completely free of gymnastics meets, sleepovers, and playdates. Now I feel a little lost. What am I supposed to do with all that time? This could be disastrous.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I've got the Sleepunder Blues

Well, we survived the big party. I think. I might be talking in my sleep.

Anyway, I'm sure you aren't surprised that, with a column deadline looming, I had to write about it.

It's not half bad.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Come, Tell Mr. Pinot. He Make It All Better.

I neglected to mention earlier on that Fifth Grader asked if she could have a sleepover birthday party this year. It's this Saturday. I attempted to limit the number of guests to half a dozen or so...but you see, Fifth Grader is a bit of a social butterfly. She has friends from several walks of life - yes, at the tender age of eleven, she has already racked up more than one walk of life - and she feels it is important to have representation from ALL sides at her birthday celebration. From there, it becomes a question of weighing the repercussions: what might happen if so-and-so is invited but what's-her-name is not?

I stopped the guest list at twelve. I also relented to allow Third Grader to invite one friend of her own to sleep over so that she would have the means to retreat gracefully if she finds herself being bossed around or rudely excluded. Luckily, three of Fifth Grader's invitees have previous engagements. As of today, we are all in with ten guests plus the Tornadoes. And myself.

But that's not the problem.

My one condition for allowing this party to happen was that we have to keep it simple. Fifth Grader selected two easy and tween-appropriate activities, passed on goody bags (we will do simple photo books to give everyone later on), opted for make-your-own sundaes instead of cake, and agreed that, with the right assortment of frozen pizzas and snacks, music and movies, they would get along just fine. We designated this afternoon to gather the assortment. With snacks, drinks, pizzas, paper goods, new DVDs to watch, and sundae toppings, we are all in at about two hundred dollars.

But that's not the problem.

It's kind of the problem. I wasn't really expecting to drop two hundred dollars on a party for an eleven-year-old. But hey, whatever. The problem, really, is that on the drive home from stimulating the economy, while I was trying to mentally process just how loud and maddening this party is actually going to be, the Tornadoes teamed up to engage me in a conversation about - capital murder.

Seriously. All of a sudden, Fifth Grader displayed a burning curiosity to understand the events surrounding the murder of a local police officer two years ago. And the trial of said murderer. And the appeals process. And what death row is like. After spending forty minutes in Target buying flower plates and hot fudge, this is what she's thinking about.

This propelled Third Grader to begin her own interrogation about the Casey and Caylee Anthony case. Why did she do it? What did she tell people? Is she sorry? What will happen to her?

I did my best to answer their questions. The thing is, no answer is ever a conversation ender with these two. No, an answer is an open door to five more questions! After a relentless twenty minutes of discussion about murder, death and the afterlife, I complimented them on their curiosity and BEGGED them to please, please change the subject. Please. Before I completely lose my mind, can we please talk about how we are going to fit ten girls in our family room on Saturday?

Oy. Dinner tonight: pita chips, hummus, and wine. Lots of wine.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What the fuddruckers...

It is Monday morning, it is snowing, and school has been cancelled. Again. These poor kids are going to be in year round school, whether they like it or not. We are easily up to the very end of June at this point. Summer promises to be a blink of the eye. So depressing.

Well let's talk about something a little less depressing for a moment. Like the Shamrock Invitational. Yes, another gymnastics meet, but chin up! The regular season is now over! All that remains are States and Regionals. Shamrock was a pretty important meet for Fifth Grader, as it was her last shot at qualifying for Regionals. She had one particular skill to nail on uneven bars - a skill that has dogged her the whole season - and I am happy to report that not only did she nail it, not only did she qualify for Regionals, but she won her first trophy of the year.

This was an away meet, and by "away" I mean ninety minutes away, in Beverly, Massachusetts. Because we have two gymnasts in the fam, who compete in different levels on different days, I got to spend my entire weekend in Massachusetts. Joy. Sorry, Massachusetts, I know we've been neighbors for a very long time. I realize you have your good points. But sadly, you live up to every cliche ever spoken about your inhabitants. I wish it weren't so, but really, you bring it upon yourself. Sitting on ice cold metal bleachers surrounded by Massachusetts folks, I could not exaggerate or make up the complete lack of verbal filters, nor the absolute inability to stop talking, period, for one nanosecond. Driving on your freeways and roads, I could not find any plausible explanation to provide to my children as to why we were constantly being cut off, sandwiched, or stopping short because the car in front of us all of a sudden realized it needed to take that left turn, other than "Welcome to Massachusetts, girls." I wish I could say that my irritability was the result of isolated cases of idiocy, but I just cannot.

I will skip over the myriad of examples lying at my fingertips and go directly to the ride home on Sunday night. I was more than happy to go home, believe me. Mega driving plus endless hours sitting on bleachers had the effect of turning me into a little old lady, knotted and hunched, and dying of pain. But there was the little matter of dinner. There was no way the girls would wait until we got home, and in my gnarled state they would have been lucky to get a bowl of cold cereal. "Where should we go?" I asked. Fifth Grader reported that her friend's family was going to Fuddruckers and that it sounded "really cool" and she wanted to go. I didn't know this Fuddruckers , but that's what GPS is for, right? Fuddruckers it is.

The GPS took us on a jolly twenty minute ride, in Massachusetts traffic, which I believe I mentioned SUCKS, to...not Fuddruckers the restaurant, but Fuddruckers the corporate office in the industrial park. Thanks, GPS. A lovely lady at the nearby Sheraton concierge desk then gave me the correct address, and a mere additional twenty minutes later, we located the restaurant. Famished and coiled like a cobra, I escorted the girls inside. We ordered our food, picked a table, and I wrapped myself tightly around my diet coke, willing the caffeine to nurse me back to health.

A large group of young men were seated at the table right behind us, apparently co-workers at a soon-to-be-defunct big box electronics retailer. You may have heard of them. I will not disclose their employer's name since much of their conversation centered around defaming said employer. There was also a rousing discussion of Which Employee Stashed the Best Loot For Himself, followed by multiple rounds of "You're a retahd!" "You're a retahd!" It was charming, really. They talked about the future - or, more specifically, about how they would each spend the first day of their impending unemployment. Sleeping and playing Mahrio Kaht, if you must know.

I must say that I did derive some pain relief from eavesdropping on these boys. Or it could have been the diet coke, but at any rate they were highly entertaining. And I am feeling much better today, thank you. Although, ask me again later how I'm doing...I'm not so sure the girls and I are going to survive another day of being cooped up here together. I'm scared. Very very scared.